Department of Earth System Science
Precipitation over South America during the Last Glacial Maximum: An analysis of the "amount effect"� with a water isotope-enabled general circulation model
- Author(s): Lee, Jung-Eun
- Johnson, Kathleen
- Fung, Inez
- et al.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1029/2009GL039265
Low latitude paleoclimate records from speleothem δ 18O measurements are often considered to reflect variations in precipitation amounts. Here we test this interpretation with a water isotope enabled atmospheric general circulation model, comparing modern and Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) controls on the δ 18Op in Brazil. We argue that the δ 18Op is determined by the contributions from local evaporation (high δ 18O) versus water vapor convergence to the region (low δ 18O). Our analysis indicates that the amount effect, commonly used to infer precipitation amount from δ 18Op in low latitude regions, works only where the isotopic composition of incoming vapor stays relatively constant such as in coastal regions of the subtropics. If the isotopic composition of incoming vapor has changed as a result of the variations in the upstream rainout, δ 18Op cannot be used to estimate local precipitation. Our analysis supports the increase of precipitation over northeastern Brazil region during the LGM.